COP26 Contingency planning

Jul 05, 2021

Detailed planning is under way for management of court operations during the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) to be held in Glasgow this autumn – the biggest and most complex event ever held in Scotland. 

The conference, hosted by the UK Government, will take place at the SEC in Glasgow between Sunday 31 October and Friday 12 November 2021 with thousands of delegates and a significant number of heads of state expected to attend. The conference is intended to provide an international response to the climate emergency and will attract significant attention both domestically and internationally.

Police Scotland announced last month that the safety and security operation for the conference is significant and will involve one of the biggest mobilisations of police assets the UK has ever seen. Around 10,000 officers will be deployed each day. Officers will be drafted from all divisions across Scotland, supported by a substantial number of colleagues from other UK police services as part of mutual aid arrangements. This level of deployment will have a significant impact on police officers’ availability to attend court as police witnesses.

It is anticipated that the conference will attract demonstrations and peaceful protests but, based on experience from previous events, there exists the potential for disruption. We are putting in place contingency plans to manage any additional custody business. This may include the requirement to run weekend custody courts in some locations, if required, and potentially to move custodies across locations. 

SCTS are working with Police Scotland and COPFS to develop robust contingency measures and we will be engaging with wider justice partners in the coming weeks to ensure these measures are effective.  

Impact of Conference on the Courts

While the courts will aim to deal with as much business as possible throughout the conference period, there will be a significant impact on criminal business. Due to the high level of police officer deployment, officers will be unable to attend as witnesses for the sheriff court and JP court trials. As a result:

  • Sheriff summary trials and JP summary trials will not take place for a three-week period from 25 October to the 12 November at all courts across Scotland. Some courts will, however, be running notional trial courts without witnesses.
  • Sheriff and Jury trials will not take place for a two-week period from 1 November to 12 November at all sheriff courts across Scotland.
  • Procedural criminal courts will continue as normal during the conference and there is the potential for additional civil business to be dealt with over the conference period.
  • The High Court will continue to sit as programmed. However, given the proximity of the conference to Glasgow High Court and the potential for disruption, trials assigned for Glasgow during the two-week period from 1 November to 12 November will instead be heard at sheriff courts outwith Glasgow.

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